We consider the use of the ellipsometric constant Δ and the surface plasmon excitation angle θ of a metal substrate covered by a thin transparent isotropic film for the determination of the refractive index n and thickness d of the film. It is proved, using an expression for Δ(n,d) and θ(n,d) valid to first order in d, that it is in general not possible to find a unique n and d from measured values of Δ and θ. Exact calculation of Δ(n,d) and θ(n,d) for the case of a silver substrate covered by an organic thin film and 632.8-nm radiation confirms this result and establishes that the range of d where the proof applies is below ~35 nm. For a value of d of ~40 nm we find that the theoretical limit of uncertainty in n and d when both Δ and θ are known to ±0.01° is 0.01 and 0.05 nm, respectively.
© 1988 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: November 13, 1987
Published: August 15, 1988
Jay S. Schildkraut, "Limitations to the determination of the optical properties of a thin film by combined ellipsometric and surface plasmon resonance measurements," Appl. Opt. 27, 3329-3333 (1988)